Watchdog Requests Hatch Act Investigation into White House, SBA

Watchdog Requests Hatch Act Investigation into White House, SBA

  • April 25, 2024
Administration members used campaign slogans in dozens of official communications.

Despite pronouncements of being the most ethical in history, the Biden administration just can’t seem to stay on the right side of the Hatch Act. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre has twice been found in violation of the law that ensures government employees don’t engage in partisan politics while on duty, yet still saw fit to use the Act as the subject of an April Fool’s joke. Her disregard for the law caused the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) in June 2023 to repeat a warning to all federal employees against using campaign slogans during official business. Repetition was clearly necessary. It seems neither the White House nor the Small Business Administration (SBA) got the memo.

After reviewing emails obtained from SBA via Freedom of Information Act request, Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) has asked the OSC to investigate repeated apparent Hatch Act violations by White House and SBA personnel.

In November 2022, when former President Trump announced his intention to run in the 2024 election, OSC expressly advised federal employees against using campaign slogans while on duty, specifically including former President Trump’s slogan “MAGA.” OSC has been clear since December of 2015 that federal employees disseminating emails containing campaign slogans, including emails sent or forwarded within the government, run afoul of the Act.

Yet PPT discovered numerous, apparent violations between January and May 2023 at both the White House and SBA. A sampling of the materials making the rounds:

  • A White House-generated email titled “Talking Points: House Republican MAGA Economic Plan.” It asked recipients “Please find talking points below on the President’s veto of the extreme MAGA Republican bill. Feel free to deploy now to your respective universes.”
  • A White House-generated email with a “Cheat Sheet” touting the economic record of the Biden administration “in contrast to MAGA Republicans in Congress who are creating chaos and proposing an extreme and divisive agenda …”
  • A White House-generated email titled “Talking Points: President Biden’s Veto of Extreme MAGA Republican Bill.” (Forwarded by two SBA officials internally.)
  • A White House-generated email titled to government agencies 19 recipients at nine agencies titled “Investing in America Tour Pitch.” In this case, the sentence, “Extreme MAGA Republicans in Congress have proposed legislation to ship manufacturing jobs overseas, as well as increase health care costs, energy costs, and prescription drug prices for working families,” was repeated fifty-six times a total of 1,064 potential violations of the Hatch Act.
  • The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs emailed Mark Madrid, assistant administrator at SBA (and likely officials at other agencies), a newsletter stating, “across our country, MAGA extremists are advancing hundreds of hateful state laws that target transgender kids and their families.”

There are many others, all heavy on the “MAGA” and loaded with apocalyptic descriptions of Republican policy positions. In addition, Administrator Guzman and Assistant Administrator Madrid each received about 60 emails from the Democratic National Committee at their official, not personal, email addresses between November 2022 and June 2023. The cumulative picture of tawdry politicking on the taxpayers’ clock is troubling.

“This continual apparent disregard of the Hatch Act shows why it’s needed in the first place,” said PPT Director Michael Chamberlain. “American citizens don’t pay their public servants to wage a permanent political campaign while disparaging their opponents. Karine Jean-Pierre has even shown that she thinks the Hatch Act is a joke. In this case, officials have an opportunity to do something to address the public’s plummeting trust in government, something they have yet to do in the face of previous violations. We hope they take it.”